Elizabeth Safran (Lewis & Clark College)
The Environmental Studies (ENVS) Program at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon has become known for its innovative approach to environmental scholarship. One way of demarcating this innovative approach is that we deliberately complicate environmental issues, helping students learn to ask the hard questions others in the environmental movement may avoid. Another key feature of our ENVS Program both reinforces and serves as a corrective to complication: students learn to situate environmental issues in hybrid geographical contexts to afford quality interdisciplinary research while building some degree of expertise. We are now seeking ways for our students to build greater skills in public engagement, both for the benefit of the communities in which they do research and as an experiential means of deepening their conceptual understandings. Yet we are aware that our students struggle to connect effectively in a world where environmental discourse tends toward the simplistic and decontextualized. Are there better and worse ways for our students to deploy digital tools toward more effective public engagement? Can digital tools help our students better grasp and communicate the value of complicating and situating environmental issues in collaboration with a diverse set of public actors? This presentation briefly summarizes our approach to environmental innovation at Lewis & Clark College, and considers some initial possibilities whereby digital scholarship may help us extend our existing strengths as we more fully explore the realm of public engagement.